Who will take the Tahs to the semis?

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Israel Folau at his Waratahs press conference to announce his signing with rugby union (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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What does Michael Cheika have in common with our two World Cup wining coaches? Like Bob Dwyer and Rod McQueen, he was a first grade backrower who did not play for the Wallabies.

Also like Dwyer and McQueen, Cheika has successfully coached a premiership winning team at the provincial level.

Cheika hails from the Randwick Rugby Club – as did Dwyer – and as a very mobile backrower, he is steeped in the tradition of running rugby having played alongside the Ella Brothers. A passionate man, he has the ability to drive and inspire players to give their best.

Having the confidence to run the ball rather than kick it (and sweat on opposition mistakes) is the hurdle that the Tahs have to take in 2013. The running rugby intent will be there, but only time will tell whether the players deliver for Cheika.

This Waratah team – like many Tah teams before them – has an excellent playing roster. The side has a Wallaby laden pack, midfield and outside backs.

Where the Tahs are vulnerable is around 9 and 10. Will Brendan McKibbon/Bernard Foley be able to mix it with Will Genia/Quade Cooper or Nic White/Matt Toomua.

The last time the Tahs made the Super Rugby final, Kurtley Beale and Luke Burgess were in the halves, playing against Daniel Carter and Andrew Ellis. The Tahs scored two tries to one but still lost.

Since then it has been a revolving door of kicking no 10s (that have driven the crowds away) and journeymen 9s.

In many ways the success of this season revolves around crisp, clean service from McKibbon to Foley, and his ability to ignite the backline.

Whether Foley gets the service he needs and has the vision and execution will determine whether he steers the Tahs to the finals.

It is a big year for Bernard Foley – will he be good enough? Will he stay fit?

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